CAD Laptop

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For some, drawing is a part of their job, while for others, it is a form of creative expression. Whether you are an architect, engineer, a product designer, or a hobbyist who loves to create intricate 2D and 3D drawings, you understand how important it is to have a high-performance CAD laptop.

If your laptop isn’t compatible to work with 2D and 3D models or other graphics-rich tasks, then creating and rendering these images can take unnecessarily long. A simple solution to that is to purchase in a CAD compatible laptop.

Choosing a CAD laptop may not be as straightforward a process as you think. You will have to take into account various performance factors, including speed, graphics processor, RAM, display quality, memory, and more. However, when you do find one that meets your requirements and offers the best value for money, you will find the entire process was worth it.

What Should I Look for When Buying My CAD Laptop?

The most important thing to know about CAD software is that it can be extremely heavy on the hardware and requires a substantial amount of processing power and memory to run smoothly. If you intend to run CAD software on your laptop, you will have to purchase one that is faster and more powerful than a normal work laptop.

However, a high-performance laptop falls into the category of high-end laptops and comes with a hefty price tag. That being said, you can always find one that delivers excellent performance and suits your budget, provided you know which specs to look for in a CAD laptop.

Here, we list down what you should look for in a CAD Laptop to make the hunt a little easier.

1. CPU – Performance and Speed

You are probably familiar with the Intel i3, i5, and i7 processors as they dominate the consumer-grade PC market. For professional workstations, Intel Xeon is the popular choice, but the Ryzen Threadripper by AMD is a good alternate choice.

The number of cores and the processor clock speed are the two main determinants of a processor’s performance.

Single and dual-core processors are becoming increasingly rare. Almost all laptops now feature a quad-core processor. High-end Intel consumer-grade processors feature 6 cores, and Ryzen and Threadripper have 8 and 12 cores, respectively.

Clock speed refers to the amount of time the core takes to complete a task and is denoted in GHz. If you are using a single-threaded software like AutoCAD that uses only one core to perform tasks, then you should look for higher clock speeds on your processor. If you are using multi-threaded software such as Maya or Vray, you need multiple cores and a decent amount of clock speed.

Multiple cores allow you to perform multiple operations simultaneously. Even if you are using AutoCAD for 2D and 3D drawings, they are constantly updating the application.

For light to medium CAD workflow, a consumer-grade quad-core processor with Simultaneous Multi-threading should work just fine. For professional, heavy CAD workflow, you should opt for a processor with 6 cores or more to ensure smooth operation, even if it is a little expensive.

2. Dedicated GPU / Graphics

The second most important component for CAD laptops is the graphic processing unit, as all CAD software is considered graphics-heavy. However, that is not completely true as the hardware requirements vary by software.

AutoCAD is more CPU dependent as it only uses the graphics card to store texture information and relies on the processor to calculate what to display. If you use AutoCAD, then your primary focus should be on finding a core with a high clock speed as the application supports both gaming and professional graphics cards.

If you are a student or a home user, a normal graphics card should work just fine. However, if you are a professional, we suggest you opt for a professional-grade card such as Quadro or FirePro. If you use any other CAD software besides AutoCAD, you will have to pay attention to the VRAM of the GPU.

A professional-grade GPU with a minimum of 4GB RAM should work well with all applications and allow you to switch to some other software if you want to.

3. Memory – RAM

Even a simple 2D CAD workflow is a somewhat complex operation and requires the simultaneous execution of multiple tasks. A common mistake that people make here is to assume that the higher the RAM, the better. That is not the case as more RAM does not ensure faster or better performance.

RAM is the PC’s physical memory, and if it fails to fulfill the requirements of a software program, the computer then uses the disk storage or secondary memory as the main memory to complete the operation. Because virtual memory is slower than RAM, it slows down the entire workflow.

When choosing the RAM for your PC, you should first identify the memory requirement of the software you are using. If the software uses only 8GB of RAM, 32GB of RAM isn’t going to perform the same as 12GB or 16GB will. The higher the RAM, the higher the price of the laptop, so make sure you know the requirements of your software.

For 2D designs, you need at least 8GB of RAM for it to be able to run smoothly and open required datasets without slowing down. For complex 3D models and designs, you need at least 16GB to ensure satisfactory performance.

4. Storage Space (SSD?)

There are two types of hard drives, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and Solid-State Drive (SSD). HDD is the older version and includes a rotating magnetic surface. It is noisy and slow, with a data transfer speed of 100 to 200mb/s.  

SSD is the modern hard drive and falls into two main categories, SATA and PCle, based on data transfer speed. SATA is the slower version with a data transfer speed of 600mb/s. PCle, on the other hand, has a transfer speed of up to 2500mb/s to 3500mb/s.

For your CAD laptop, we suggest you look for an SSD drive if it fits your budget. If not, then try to find a laptop with an SSD boot drive for satisfactory performance.

5. Ports & Connectivity

There isn’t much need for multiple ports for CAD applications. You will need at least 2 USB ports to plug your mouse in and keyboard for ease of use, and that’s just about it. You may want to ensure your laptop has an HDMI port if you intend to use multiple screens when creating models and designs. Having a spare USB port can also prove beneficial.

6. Keyboard

Whether you are a CAD hobbyist or an industry professional, you’ll be spending a substantial amount of time creating designs, and the wrong keyboard can make the process frustrating and quite uncomfortable. Even though there are no keyboards specifically designed for CAD, there are many that work extremely well.

For CAD applications, you will need a full-size keyboard on your laptop. The keyboard should be highly responsive so as not to disrupt the creative workflow. A keyboard with mechanical switches is ideal as it is durable, making it ideal for heavy use like CAD and gaming. You may also want to look for a low-noise keyboard to make the user experience more comfortable.

7. Hardware Upgradability

If you are a beginner just starting out in CAD, you may not be willing to dish out a huge sum of money for a high-end laptop, and that’s understandable. We suggest you start with a basic laptop with 8GB RAM and an HDD.

If you decide you want to move to heavier CAD software and create 3D designs, you can always upgrade the hardware by switching to an SSD and upgrading the RAM to 16GB. Here, you have to ensure that your laptop has a good core that can handle the hardware upgrade.

8. Display Quality & Screen Size

With design applications, the bigger the screen and higher the resolution, the better. But because we are looking at CAD laptops, we also need to keep portability in mind. A 15-inch screen is wide enough to provide optimal functionality and still remain portable. A 14-inch screen also works well as long as it has excellent screen resolution. We suggest you look for a full HD screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

9. Battery Life

CAD software is hardware intensive and can quickly drain your laptop’s battery. You can either keep the laptop hooked to a power source at all times or look for a laptop that can provide at least 7 to 8 hours of battery life even when you create heavy-duty 3D CAD drawings.

10. Portability (Size and Weight)

If you’re looking for a laptop and not a workstation, you probably intend on carrying it around. If so, you will have to pay extra attention to its size and weight to find one that fits into a laptop bag and isn’t uncomfortable to carry, especially if you have to carry it over long distances. Try to find one that is thin and compact enough to carry around and has a decent battery life, allowing you to use it even when not plugged in.

Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best CAD Laptops

You can buy a high-end laptop with the fastest processor and 32GB RAM or more if you have the budget for it. But that’s just money wasted if you’re not going to use the laptop to its full potential.

So, the first thing to do is to note down what you need. Are you looking for portability, more power, or longer battery life? Is screen or keyboard size critical to your selection criteria? Is hardware upgradability optional or a necessity? Do you frequently use graphics-heavy applications such as Adobe or Corel?

From there on, you start looking at possible options to find one that suits your requirements and fits within your budget. We have divided our list of recommended laptops as per different requirements to ensure there’s an option for each designer, student, and even hobbyist.

The Best CAD Laptops

#1: ASUS ROG Zephyrus M (Best Overall #1)

ASUS ROG Zephyrus M

Pros

  • Hexa-core processor for faster performance
  • Optimal memory to prevent the system from slagging
  • Excellent cooling system with dual fans (with adjustable modes) and anti-dust technology
  • RGB backlit keyboard and Pantone validated display
  • Thin and lightweight for portability
  • Up to 8.5 hours of battery life

Cons

  • Doesn’t have an NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – i7-9750H – 4.5GHz
  • Graphics- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 -8GB VRAM
  • Memory -16GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 1TB SSD PCle
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” (240Hz FHD)

If you want the perfect professional laptop that is powerful and portable, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus 2 is ideal for you. It checks all the boxes performance-wise and even exceeds expectations with its extremely powerful graphics card with 8GB dedicated VRAM.

It has a long battery life, a Pantone validated RGB display, and keyboard. The laptop is ideal for professionals with a heavy workflow. Its multiple fan cooling system and dust management technology keep the system running optimally at all times.

You can even use it on the go, and it will provide superb performance for over 8 hours. This is the laptop you want if you don’t want to compromise on performance or portability at all as it is just 18.9mm thick and weighs only 4.4lbs.

Buy the Asus ROG Zephyrus M here on Amazon.

#2: Lenovo ThinkPad P71 Workstation Laptop (Best Overall #2)

Lenovo Thinkpad P71

Pros

  • Plenty of storage
  • Large screen with high resolution for architectural drawing, 3D models, and more
  • Multiple USB ports and card readers for optimal functionality

Cons

  • Not as compact
  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7- 7700HQ- up to 3.8GHz
  • Graphics – NVIDIA Quadro M620M (2 GB GDDR5 VRAM) + Kaby Lake Processor
  • Memory – 16GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 1TB SSD + 2TB HDD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 17.3” Full HD (1920 x 1080)

If you’re looking for the ideal workstation, the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 fits the bill. It meets all the requirements needed for basic and complex designing and drawing. The laptop has plenty of storage with a 2TB HDD and 1TB SSD. The OS is stored on the SSD, ensuring optimal performance.

With 16Gf B RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro graphics card with dedicated 2GB VRAM, creating complex 3D models can be fun. The 17.3” full HD display enhances the overall user experience, making it ideal for those who are looking for a professional laptop that is functional and has all the essential specs to deliver a powerful performance.  

Buy the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 here on Amazon.

#3:  Lenovo Thinkpad P53 (Best Overall #3)

Lenovo ThinkPad P53s

Pros

  • High-end processor for heavy-duty CAD application
  • Heavy graphics processing unit for graphics-heavy applications
  • Large memory for professional workflow

Cons

  • Quite heavy – can be uncomfortable to carry around
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel i7 (9850H vPro) – clock speed up to 5GHz
  • Graphics – Nvidia RTX 3000 (6GB)
  • Memory – 64GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 1TB SSD (PCle)
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” – Full HD

The Lenovo Thinkpad P53 is a high-end laptop ideal for professional designers. The hexa-core processor, paired with 1TB SSD storage and 6GB graphics card, makes it ideal for heavy workflow. The 15.6-inch full HD screen is ideal for architectural and design work.

The workstation meets 12 military-grade requirements, making it one of the most durable options available. If you are a frequent traveler who needs a portable, heavy-duty laptop for CAD, this is ideal for you, so long as you have access to a power outlet to plug it in after 6 hours or so of use.

Buy the Lenovo ThinkPad P53s here on Amazon.

#4: HP Zbook 15v G5 (Best Performance)

HP ZBook 15v G5

Pros

  • 4GB dedicated VRAM for graphics-heavy tasks
  • Hexa-core processor with 12 threads for enhanced efficiency
  • Ample memory ideal for even the heaviest software
  • Touchscreen for ease of use
  • 10-hour long battery life

Cons

  • May need to upgrade HDD storage to SSD
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor -Intel Core i7-8750H – 4.1 GHz
  • Graphics -NVIDIA Quadro P600 – 4GB VRAM
  • Memory – 32GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 512GB SSD PCle + 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” – FHD – Touch screen

The HP Zbook boasts of high performance, a powerful graphics card that comes with dedicated 4GB VRAM, and ample memory to support even the heaviest software program. You can open multiple large datasets without worrying about the laptop slowing down.

The laptop also features a super-fast charging battery that can power up by 50% within only 30 minutes. It provides up to 10 hours of uninterrupted use when fully charged.

Buy the HP ZBook 15v G5 here on Amazon.

#5: Dell G5 15 (Best Mid-Range)

Dell G5 15

Pros

  • Ample memory and storage
  • Powerful processor
  • Dual Fan cooling system

Cons

  • SATA Drive
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7-9750h – 4.5GHz
  • Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 – 4GB VRAM
  • Memory – 16GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 1TB SATA + 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” FHD LCD screen

The Dell G5 15 is an ideal option for those on a mid-range budget. It isn’t particularly cheap, but it is less expensive than most other laptops on this list with almost the same level of functionality. The laptop has a 9th generation i7 Intel core with a clock speed of 4.5GHz. It has 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage, besides the traditional 1TB SATA storage.

The laptop also features the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, which is a high-performing graphics card ideal for even the most graphics-heavy tasks. It comes with 4GB dedicated VRAM, providing enhanced efficiency. The laptop’s metallic finish and dual-fan cooling system make it the best available option in the given price range.

Buy the Dell G5 15 here on Amazon.

#6: Dell XPS 15 (Best Value)

Dell XPS 15

Pros

  • Hexa-core processor for faster performance
  • A powerful memory card with ample dedicated VRAM
  • Powerful memory for faster data transfer.

Cons

  • You may need to upgrade storage
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7-9750h – clock speed 4.5GHz
  • Graphics -Nvidia GeForce GTX – 4GB VRAM
  • Memory – 16GB RAM
  • Hard Drive – 256/512GB SSD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” – 4k OLED

DELL never fails to deliver and is known to provide laptops that offer the best value for money. The XPS 15 is the perfect product to back up that statement. It is sleek, stylish, and has all the features of a high-performing laptop with a powerful core and graphics combination backed by ample memory to deliver the best to the user. The laptop comes with two storage options – 256GB and 512GB SSD. You can always upgrade the storage to turn this into a high-end professional CAD laptop.

Buy the Dell XPS 15 here on Amazon.

#7: MSI WF65 10TI-444 (Best for AutoCAD and 3D Modeling)

MSI WF65 10TI-444

Pros

  • 10th gen Intel core for optimal performance
  • Professional-grade graphics card with 4GB dedicated VRAM
  • NVMe SSD storage for faster performance

Cons

  • Battery life varies by specification

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10750H – 5GHz
  • Graphics – NVIDIA Quadro T1000 4GB GDDR6
  • Memory – 16GB
  • Hard Drive – 512GB NVMe PCle SSD + 1Tb SSHD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6”

If you are looking for a laptop that can handle complex 3D modeling and AutoCAD tasks, the MSI WF65 10TI-444 is ideal for you. It features a high-end hexa-core processor, a professional-grade graphics card to handle heavy workflow, and NVMe SSD storage to ensure fast and smooth execution. The laptop delivers unparalleled performance, especially at the given price point.

Buy the MSI WF65 10TI-444 here on Amazon.

#8: Alienware M15 (Best for AutoCAD)

Alienware M15

Pros

  • Advanced cooling system to prevent the laptop from overheating
  • Hexa-core processor for faster performance
  • SSD hard drive for quick and efficient data transfer.

Cons

  • No NVMe SSD
  • You may have to upgrade storage

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7-9750H ( clock speed up to 4.5GHz)
  • Graphics – NVIDIA RTX 2060 (6GB VRAM)
  • Memory – 16GB
  • Hard Drive – 512GB SSD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6” FHD

The best AutoCAD laptop should be able to handle both 2D and 3D drafting, prototyping, and rendering tasks efficiently, and the Alienware M15 definitely meets the requirements. Being of the most competent gaming laptops on the market, it is designed to handle tasks that require a lot of computational power. It also features a powerful core backed by ample memory and SSD storage for smooth workflow management.

Buy the Alienware M15 here on Amazon.

#9: ASUS ROG Strix G (Best for 3D Modeling)

Asus ROG Strix G

Pros

  • Intelligent cooling system with dual fans
  • Powerful graphics card and core combination
  • SSD storage for smooth and efficient data processing and transfer

Cons

  • Low Battery Life

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7-9750h
  • Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5
  • Memory – 16GB
  • Hard Drive – 512GB/1TB/1.5 TB SSD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6”

Where most 2D applications work fine with 8GB of RAM, you need something stronger for 3D modeling. You not only need a minimum of 16GB RAM but also need top-notch hardware to ensure smooth operation. The ASUS ROG Strix G has all the hardware you need for a high-performing laptop for 3D modeling.

It has an optimal cooling system preventing the system from overheating as you create heavy 3D models and render them. The only problem with the PC is that it has a short battery life. Though it is compact, sleek, and portable, you cannot use it on the go for more than 4 hours.

Buy the ASUS ROG Strix G here on Amazon.

#10: Acer Aspire 5 (Best Budget)

Acer Aspire 5

Pros

  • SSD storage to prevent slagging
  • Long battery life
  • 2GB dedicated VRAM for

Cons

  • Low memory ideal only for 2D rendering
  • Doesn’t have NVMe SSD

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i5-8265U– clock speed up to 3.9GHz
  • Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (2 GB)
  • Memory – 8GB
  • Hard Drive – 512 SSD PCle
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 15.6 inches Full HD (1920×1080)

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly portable laptop with a decent amount of power and high battery life, the Aspire A5 is the one for you. With a quad-core Intel i5 processor that boasts speeds of up to 3.9GHz, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage, and a battery life of up to 9 hours, you can use your laptop on the go without having to worry about your system lagging during CAD and 2D model rendering.

If you feel like you need something a little more powerful for 3D models, you can always upgrade the memory and storage drive to suit your requirements. There are very few laptops that provide the same level of performance as the Aspire 5 at this price point.

Buy the Acer Aspire 5 here on Amazon.

#11: MacBook Pro 16 (Best MacBook for CAD)

Apple MacBook Pro

Pros

  • Customizable to suit beginner and advanced requirements
  • Widescreen LED display
  • High-end processor and graphic card
  • Up to 11 hours of battery life

Cons

  • You will have to provide optimal operating conditions

Key Specifications

  • Processor – Intel Core i7/i9 – 6 and 8 core processor configurable up to (4.5GHz -5GHz)
  • Graphics – AMD Radeon Pro 5300M/ 5500M (4GB)
  • Memory-  16GB/32GB/64GB
  • Hard Drive – 512GB/1TB SSD – configurable to up to 8TB SSD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 16” LED-backlit display

The MacBook Pro 16 lives up to its name and might very well be the perfect laptop for professional designers and architects. You can optimize the personal computer to suit all your requirements by upgrading the hardware completely.

As long as you know what you want, you can get it with the MacBook provided you can afford it.

Buy the MacBook Pro 16 here on Amazon.

#12: HP OMEN 17t (Best for Students)

HP OMEN 17t

Pros

  • Powerful hexa-core processor
  • An equally powerful graphics card with 8GB dedicated VRAM
  • Wide Full HD screen

Cons

  • HDD storage – Doesn’t have NVMe SSD
  • Low battery life

Key Specifications

  • Processor – i7-8750H – up to 4.1 GHz of clock speed
  • Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 – 8GB
  • Memory – 8GB
  • Hard Drive –  1TB HDD
  • Screen Size and Resolution – 17.3” FHD

As a student, you don’t really need a professional-grade laptop. Even though the HP Omen 17t is essentially a gaming laptop, it works exceptionally well with most CAD applications. It has a powerful processor with an equally powerful graphics card and a decent amount of memory on it. What the system lacks in memory it makes up for through its graphic processing unit.

Buy the HP OMEN 17t here on Amazon.

Verdict

Before you set out to buy one, we suggest you jot down your requirements. Make sure you take into account the software you use and find out the specifications it needs to operate optimally. We’d wholeheartedly recommend the very first option for all those looking for the best CAD laptop.

A laptop is a one-time investment, and you might want to stretch your budget, especially if you are looking for a professional-grade laptop. You can also browse through the list to find other options that meet your requirements.

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